Growing Lavender

Growing Lavender

Growing lavender should be an enjoyable experience.  What feildfollows are some basic recommendations to help get you started growing lavender in the Northeast. There are many ways to grow, propagate and care for lavender. While Lavender is tolerant and can be grown in conditions that are less than perfect, the closer you can get to the basic growing requirements the better.  You may not have the perfect soil, dug the perfect hole, or have the perfect climate yet the plants still manage to grow.  The only way to know what works for you is to get started, grow a few varieties and see what happens. Keep it fun.  It’s likely that not all of your plants will live in the Northeast. That’s ok, don’t get discouraged.  Try multiple varieties and learn how to propagate so you can replace the plants that didn’t make it.  Most of all enjoy learning about your plants, caring for them and then reaping the delightful reward of a summer filled with beautiful and fragrant lavender.

Winter Frost Cover

In a northern climate like ours where wind is almost a constant in the winter, we have found it works best to cover the lavender with a heavy frost cover. In our opinion wind burn is more detrimental to the plant than the cold temperatures. Also, in the event of freezing rain, the fabric will offer some shelter as well. Put the fabric down around the 1st or 2nd week in December after there have been a few frosts but no snow coverage and take it off in mid April, adjusting the time-frame based on your climate. Weigh the cover down with rocks or invest in the pins that will secure the fabric to the ground. Even though a frost or two may occur after taking the fabric off, the plant needs to breath and start acclimating to the weather again after a winter of being covered up.

Pruning

Lavender likes a substantial pruning. This will keep the small shoots low on the bush, which will generally allow for a healthier, longer life of the plant. Pruning encourages new growth and prevents a woody bush that may split under heavy snow cover (especially in our Northeast climate). Make sure to leave at least three shoots on the wood otherwise you risk killing the plant if you cut it back to wood only. A good rule of thumb is to leave at least a green buzz cut.  I prune the angustofolia, removing from one-third to no more than two-thirds of the bush from mid-August through early September (at the latest), after the flowers have lost their color and well before the frosts start. They really look awful after a good pruning. Don’t worry, they will start to regrow and within a week or so you will start to see new growth. Different pruning schedules are followed for different hardiness groups of lavenders (L. stoechas, L. latifolia, L. dentata, etc)

Before/After Betty' Blue

Before/Half Pruned Betty’s Blue

Regrowth a few weeks after a severe pruning

Regrowth after 1 year

Regrowth on same plant 1 year (mid August) later